Tuesday, February 27, 2018
C.A. Upholds 135-Year-to-Life Sentence for Child Molester Not Cruel or Unusual
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Fourth District Court of Appeal has held that a 135-year-to-life sentence imposed on a man who committed multiple forcible lewd acts on the minor daughters of his girlfriend was not cruel or unusual punishment.
Presiding Justice Manuel A. Ramirez of Div. Two wrote the opinion, filed Friday and not certified for publication.
Appellant Carlos Linares Fuentes was convicted in 2016 on nine counts. According to the evidence, he moved in with the mother and began molesting one girl, age 9, in 2012, and the other in 2014 when she was 5—with the attacks sometimes taking place with the mother or the other girl in the same room.
In addition to claiming cruel and unusual punishment, Fuentes appealed on the grounds that Riverside Superior Court Judge Charles J. Koosed was mistaken in his belief that he was statutorily obliged to impose nine consecutive 15-year sentences and that his lawyer provided ineffective assistance in failing to point out the error.
If there was error, Ramirez said, it didn’t matter, explaining:
“[T]he court stated at sentencing: ‘If I were to have any discretion or the ability to lessen anything, I would not exercise it. There’s no reason to do that.’ Hence, there would be no point in directing the trial court to resentence defendant, because the court made it clear that it would sentence defendant to nine consecutive sentences whether or not it was required to.”
State Consitutional Standard
Rejecting Fuentes’s protest that his sentence ran afoul of the state constitutional prohibition on “cruel or unusual pubishment” Ramirez wrote:
“Here, defendant was in his early forties when he repeatedly committed sex crimes against these two young, vulnerable girls over a period of two to three years. Defendant cannot argue that he was immature or acted rashly on a single occasion. To the contrary, defendant’s mature age and repeated acts over an extended period of time upon children who called him, ‘Dad,’ are reprehensible. As the trial court commented at sentencing, the abuse lasted a long time and will affect the girls for the rest of their lives. For these reasons, the nature of the defendant and of his offenses do not make the sentence of 135 years to life ‘so disproportionate to the crime...that it shocks the conscience and offends fundamental notions of human dignity.’ ”
The jurist observed that the sentence was not disproportionate to others authorized in the state for noncapital offenses or sentences imposed in other jurisdictions.
Federal Constitutional View
Examining federal standards under the Eighth Amendnent, Ramirez said:
“The hurdles defendant must surmount to demonstrate cruel and unusual punishment under the federal Constitution are, if anything, higher than under the state Constitution.”
“The 135-year-to-life sentence imposed is noteworthy. However, defendant’s crimes are also noteworthy. He took advantage of his proximity and position of trust to repeatedly molest two young girls over a period of two to three years. Defendant’s acts against these most vulnerable members of our society fully support the lengthy sentence. Defendant cites no persuasive authority to support his claim that this is one of those rare cases in which a sentence is so grossly disproportionate to the gravity of the offenses committed that it violates the Eighth Amendment’s proscription against cruel and unusual punishment.”
A $4,300 sex offense fine was ordered stricken. Ramirez said Koosed erred in finding that the fine had to be imposed even if the defendant had no means by which to pay it.
The case is People v. Fuentes, E065976.
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